MOSCOW, June 30. /TASS/. Russia considers the current Ukrainian leadership unfriendly, but not the Ukrainians, expects the relationship with the United States to return to normal and, in general, hopes for a "more favorable" world order, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual Q&A session, known as the ‘Direct Line with Vladimir Putin’, on Wednesday.
In response to questions from Russian citizens, the president spoke about prospects for his meeting with Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky and whether the recent incident with the British destroyer in the Black Sea could spark World War III.
TASS wrapped up Putin’s key statements on foreign policy.
About a unipolar world
"The period of the unipolar world has gone," Putin said. "Whatever sanctions may be used against Russia, no matter how they may try to frighten us, Russia is developing all the same and its economic sovereignty is increasing. The defense capability has reached a very high level and surpassed many countries of the world by many parameters. It has also outperformed the United States by some parameters".
About whether Ukraine is an unfriendly country
"I do not consider the Ukrainian people unfriendly," the president said. "However, the current leadership of Ukraine is clearly unfriendly, unlike its people."
About Russians and Ukrainians
"I believe that Ukrainians and Russians are one people," he said. "I am going to write a special analytical article, and hope that people in Russia as well as in Ukraine will get familiar with it."
About a meeting with Zelensky
"He (Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky - TASS) has put Ukraine under external administration," Putin said. "What is to be discussed then?"
"Nevertheless, I do not refuse to have such meetings. It is to be understood first what is to be discussed," he said.
The supporters of normal relations with Russia are "nipped in the bud". "Some are sent to jail, others put under house arrest, or killed on the streets. What's the point of meeting with Zelensky?"
About the Ukrainian bill on "indigenous peoples"
"This is incomprehensible. You see, Russian people lived there since the dawn of time, and now they are being declared non-indigenous," the president said. "You know, this is comparable from the standpoint of consequences to the use of some kind of weapon of mass destruction".
About the incident with a British destroyer in the Black Sea
"Even if we had sunk that ship, it would still be difficult to imagine that this would have put the world on the brink of WWIII," Putin said.
Nevertheless, "this is, of course, a provocation" staged not only by the British but also by the Americans, since "the British warship ventured into our territorial waters in the afternoon while early in the morning, <...> a US strategic reconnaissance plane took off from a NATO airfield in Greece, from Crete, I believe".
About the "military exploitation" of Ukraine
"I am concerned over another, more fundamental thing, namely that the military exploitation of Ukrainian territory is starting to unfold," Putin emphasized.
About Western troops near Russian borders
"Look, first, there was a big fuss over the exercises we were holding near the Ukrainian borders. I issued instructions to the Defense Ministry to gradually curtail them and pull the troops back, if somebody finds them worrisome," Putin said. "But instead of reacting to this positively <...>, what did they do? They showed up on our borders".
About Washington’s aspirations
"The world is changing dramatically. But our partners in the US, on the one hand, understand this, and this is why the Geneva meeting [with US President Joe Biden] took place, but, on the other hand, they seek to preserve their monopolistic position at any cost".
About relations with the US
"I do hope that <...> the world order will become more favorable, and our relations, including with the United States, will return to normal".
About a response to sanctions
"We do not intend and will not take retaliatory steps that will harm our own interests," he said. "If they cross any boundaries, we find asymmetric ways to answer that are quite sensitive for our partners".
"Russia played a certain role in settling the very serious crisis. And nobody wants it to develop further, not Azerbaijan or Armenia, and even more so the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh".